Orizuru, a paper crane, a symbol of peace and the most classic of Japanese origami.
Senbazuru, a thousand cranes! You might have heard of the Japanese legend promising to grant a wish, good luck or recovery from illness to those who fold one thousand cranes.
On my travels through Instagram, I have been following the work of Cristian Marianciuc @icarus.mid.air, a Romanian artist who embarked on a project to fold one thousand very special and unique origami cranes!
Cristian is creating his thousand origami cranes as a way of journaling and as a practice to develop artistic expression. By adding elements to the crane he extends its poetic significance and gives it a new and creative voice.
I asked Cristian recently about his background, his love for origami, and his one-thousand-crane project. To learn more about Cristian and his work be sure to watch the video posted at the end of this article.
• You are combining origami with other media, using the traditional origami crane both as canvas and primary integrating element to create a journal of your life. What inspired you to use the traditional origami crane in this way?
I have kept journals on and off as a teenager, and I still sporadically write down what is happening in my life. But I wanted to share my experiences with others without being too specific about personal details. I cannot recall the moment or the circumstance in which I decided I would use the crane model as a “blank canvas”.
Most likely late at night – that time of the day is when I get most of my ideas. But my fascination with flying has definitely played an important role in this rather involuntary decision. And also a habit I had developed in 2014, when I would write down notes, to myself or for others, after which I folded them into cranes.
• Do you have any formal training in the arts, and if so, which art?
I have never trained formally in any type of art; I have just always had a predilection for artistic expression. I remember being told, while growing up, that I had an unusual creative perspective and those close to me have always encouraged me to nurture my artistic inclination.
• What were the circumstances that led you to first become interested in origami?
I would say that my very first contact with the art of origami was at an age when I did not know that it was called origami. I have folded many paper planes, that is for sure.
But while I was studying at university in Sydney, Australia, I was reintroduced to this fascinating art in my “Japanese Culture” class. I even wrote a paper on its symbolism and its practical uses today. While researching for this paper, I became deeply impressed by the story of Sadako Sasaki and the symbolism of the origami crane.
• Who has been an inspiration or influence in your artistic work and what is it about them you find inspiring?
I honestly cannot name just one person, at least not yet. I have found a great deal of support and love in the ‘origami community’ of Instagram, and this virtual friendship is an endless source of inspiration for me.
On many occasions I was extended a helping hand through a message or a comment, and that was exactly what was needed in a particular moment. So I owe very much to, let’s call it, the “Origami family”. I also hope to get the chance to meet in person as many of these wonderful friends as possible!
• You have been posting your project to Instagram for over a year now. What motivates you to wake up every morning, develop a new concept, and produce a new crane?
This question made me smile. I have to confess that I had several moments when I was very close to calling it a day. But as time passed, I became more and more attached to folding and decorating my cranes.
The habit itself proved to be extremely therapeutic! I now feel that I need to keep going. I am sure I would feel incomplete should I decide to skip even a single day. It is like exercise, but for my creativity!
• You seem to love music, and on each of your posts you mention “The song of the day”. Many of your cranes are connected to your love of music. For example, there is one called “The adagio crane”. Please speak a little bit about your love for music as it relates to your crane project or to your daily life.
Music is indeed an important force in my life. Just like with this project, I have songs that remind me of a particular time of my life. And I find that beautiful! I find music to have the ability of transcending words and of translating the untranslatable!
I have a particular fond memory of my “Adagio crane”: I remember listening to quite a few pieces of classical music that day, and out of nowhere, I get the image of the crane, strings and all, very clear in my mind. It was almost like a revelation.
Not to mention the fact that I rarely fold and decorate my birds without listening to music. So I would say that I have an almost symbiotic relationship with music. Along with the actual cranes, songs help me describe my mood in a very personal way!
• Your Instagram handle is @icarus.mid.air. On some of your posts you have alluded to the myth of Icarus. Why did you choose this name? How does Icarus relate to your work?
I am fascinated by the theme of flying, and I used to read a lot of mythology stories growing up. Although the story of Icarus is not one with a happy ending, I find myself attached to him and his experiences.
I chose the moniker icarus.mid.air in order to capture a particular moment of the story: the euphoric moment of being mid-air, of flying. I have tried to add a layer of symbolism in all of my work: an attempt to show beauty in places where otherwise we would not look for it.
So, I see beauty in the crafting of the feathers and wax wings, in their first flap, but also in the cruel, yet predictable descent.
I have even included materials such as bones, hedgehog needles and feathers in my cranes, to further explore the pursuit of beauty in failure, in decay and in death. So, I suppose that the story of Icarus has helped me develop an aesthetic that does not shy away from looking into the less beautiful aspects of life.
• At this moment you have more than a year’s worth of daily origami cranes. Have any of those models resonated with your audience in a way that surprised you? Why do you think so?
I have absolutely loved hearing the interpretations that people share with me. It is a real treat to read about what people see in my cranes, and the emotions they trigger.
I like to think of my project as being a multisensory one. You can just look at the photos and enjoy the visual aspect, but that way, you will miss out on a fuller ‘experience’. Each crane has a story that very often will reveal something that contradicts immediate appearances.
And then there is the music, which is an accompaniment to the visual aspect and to the story. For example, one day I posted the photo of a crane that looked very joyful, very colourful, yet my intention was to describe something much more somber, much more solemn. So, in that way, I find it interesting to see how deep people manage to dig into each crane’s layers of symbolism.
• Are there days when you must discipline yourself, push yourself, to do your journal work?
Absolutely! I don’t always start off with a clear idea. And there are days when I go through two or three ideas before I decide to scrap everything and start all over again. But then again, in days such as these I have come up with some of my most memorable pieces.
Take my “black swan” or “Cristian the cranes” piece – it was the result of an afternoon of “emotional wrestling” with my thoughts. And now, I would say it is one of my most easily recognizable creations; someone has even made it into a tattoo…I suppose that is the ultimate compliment: someone wearing your work on their skin.
• What do you think of artistic discipline and what form, if any, does it take in your practice?
I used to have a very romantic perspective on art. I thought that all works of art were the result of instant moments of inspiration. How naïve of me! Like any trade or any activity, one must work, and work, and then work some more to perfect their abilities. I believe that is very apparent in my project.
I can clearly see the evolution of my creations from a purely visual point of view. I definitely put more work in what I do today! I also try to create outside of this project. It is very liberating to have this outlet where I can share the finished pieces, but I also enjoy painting on other surfaces than cranes’ wings! I would say that artistic skill requires a lot of work!
So I have days when I take out my watercolors and I start painting with the intention to learn, and not necessarily to create.
• What do you think of recognition? Is recognition important to you and how do you think you would feel about the direction of your work if very few people were acknowledging your creativity?
Recognition and validation are nice; they make anyone feel good. I would be a hypocrite to say otherwise! But I am thankful for having had a moment when I sat down and made a firm decision to stay away from things that do not feel genuine to me personally.
I decided to listen to my instincts first, and not to chase after what is “in” or what is guaranteed to attract attention. There is nothing wrong with that in itself, but as I shared with those who have joined me on this creative journey, this project is first of all for myself. And I want to be able to look at my pieces and remember things that moved me on a particular day.
If it so happens that on the 14th of February I will feel compelled to do a Valentine’s Day inspired crane, by all means, I will do that. But, as I mentioned, I want my instinct to be the one who dictates the direction in which I go creatively. I think that having this outlook will spare me from feeling upset if I lost many followers, and it will also keep me grounded if I happened to gain many followers.
• What do you think of the idea that projects such as yours are a vehicle for journaling, as a record of the days in your life?
I encourage everyone to give it a try! I believe that using your creativity to record the passing of time is an immensely beneficial habit!
Not only will the activity itself prove to be therapeutic and extremely enjoyable, but being able to look back at something you have created with your own hands will help keep memories vivid and add even more value to experiences and events!
• Any ideas on how far would you like to take this project?
It is rather hard to tell. But I am hoping to be able to fold and decorate 1000 cranes. I started with a ‘365 days’ challenge, and I could not bring myself to putting an end to it!
Although the main aim is no longer to serve as a personal journal, I still have a day here and there when I decide to revisit this format.
I am hoping to explore more themes and more techniques as time goes by. I have enjoyed organizing week-long mini-series on different topics, and that is something I will surely continue doing. But I suppose I will discover the direction that my project will take as I go along.
• What other plans do you have for the future regarding this or other projects that you might like to develop?
I am in the process of putting together a platform where I will be able to offer commissioned pieces. I have been asked many times about this, and I was somehow apprehensive. But I would love to turn my passion into something that I can use to support myself.
I am also looking into collaborating with creatives from different areas of The Arts. So far, I have had the opportunity to work with a musician, some talented illustrators and even with my very gifted two-year old nephew. I have high hopes for this endeavor!
As for the rest, well, I dream of relocating to a big city. I suspect that I would be able to really immerse myself in what I enjoy doing that way!
To learn more about Cristian and his work be sure to watch this video posted.
(Photos courtesy of Cristian Marianciuc)
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